Do you know the feeling that you are woven into the fabric of a city against your will?
I've told you before that I was born in Rotterdam, at a time when it was still licking its wounds from WWII.
The Wetlands were at the threshold of a new era, wrestling with the legacy of war, of betrayal, of shame, but also with the breathtaking opportunity to make things better.
My parents couldn't find a home of their own in the bombed-out city, so they lived with my grandparents around the corner of Blijdorp Zoo. They shared their tiny room with a large cat.
I was begat with this red tomcat keeping an eye on the proceedings, and was born with the same red tomcat watching my birth from a distance of 2 feet. For me, this is the most logical explanation of my life-long fascination and identification with cats. In fact, I believe I am part cat myself. (And if you don't believe me, that's your problem)
Later on, I used to take the bus from the village my Mum had moved to towards Rotterdam (a journey of 1 1/2 hours), and wander the streets of the city centre. It made me feel very grown up (I was 13).
Then, when I was 17, I found a job in Amsterdam and Rotterdam was moved to second best. After Amsterdam I moved to London, and Rotterdam only became important again when I was forced to move back to my home country. It was the city where I had to travel to to work, nothing more. I stopped work there when I found a job closer to home and that was that.
Now that I am in my late fifties, and my aging brain starts to deteriorate to the point where 'old' memories come easier than 'new', and since I am once again working in Rotterdam, a certain pride has snuck up on me.
When I stand on the quay of the Lloyd Island, looking out across the river, I feel this deep connection to Rotterdam.
This is my workplace, believe it or not (better do!). Do you see the building right at the edge on the right, with the funny asymmetrical top? That is where I work, the STC, school for all things to do with the harbour, shipping and transport.
And this is my view, when I have the time to look out my classroom window...which isn't often.
Okay, not quite this view, this is a selfie. But look at the river Maas behind us, and that ship! The Oasis of the Seas, she is called. She stayed one day in Rotterdam before moving herself to the docks. And hundreds of people streamed to the water's edge to see her pass. And we all loved it.
Just as we loved the opening of the Central Station last May, and the opening of the huge Market Hall for Fresh Food yesterday.
Now, do not make the mistake of thinking that Rotterdam is all huge brand new buildings! For just around the corner of my school, there is this:
Mooooooooove over, Amsterdam!!!
This is old Delfshaven, now part of Rotterdam-West, and it's the old port of Delft. Delft, being more inland, didn't have access to the river itself, so founded a port of her own. It is hard to imagine, but Delfshaven used to be more important than Rotterdam.
And when I walk around these streets, I have a certainty deep in my bones. This city is in my genes. I may not live there, and I make fun of its slang and pronunciation, but it is part of me.
Oude Maasweg This is the ultimate Maas song!
(Photographs were originally posted by Gers! Magazine on FB - except for the selfie, of course. You will recognise that they are wonderful, so do look up their FB page and feast your eyes some more)